Jon Brick Receives Verdict of the Week

April 15, 2020

Verdict Search California | November 2005

Chicken ranch's stockpile of manure a nuisance, plaintiffs pled

From 1973 until 2005, Mrs.Clark owned a home in Ramona where she resided with her late husband and her children,including her son, Russell, also a plaintiff.

The plaintiffs claimed that when they first moved in, the property adjacent to their home was used for a baby chick-rais­ing operation. In the late 1970s, it was purchased by Embly Ranch which, in 1989, converted the baby-chick-raising facil­ity co an egg-laying ranch housing up to 150,000 adult chick­ens, operating it as such until 1998.

In 1999, Embly Ranch leased the property to Eggs Master Inc., which operated the ranch from 1999 until the prop­erty was sold to a third party in 2002.

Claiming that Eggs Master began stockpiling chicken excre­ment which interfered with their enjoyment and use of their property, the Clarks sued Embly Ranch, Eggs Master, lnfanzon and Markowicz for negligence, continuing nuisance, trespass and intentional infliction of emo­tional distress. Plaintiff Russell Clark alleged that the operations of the egg ranch caused a variety of physical aliments and emotional distress.

The plaintiffs alleged that the defendants allowed dust, flies and odors to emanate from the ranch.  They alleged that the excrement, which had been ground into a powdered sub­stance, migrated onto their property when it was expelled into the air via the defendant's excrement-handling process. They claimed their house was directly downwind form the excrement stockpiles.

The defendants contended that the operations of the ranch were within the standard of care for such facilities in San Diego County and were at all times in compliance with the San Diego County ordinance concerning fly breeding. They further argued chat the operations were permitted under applicable zoning ordinances and were not a nuisance or a trespass pursuant to Civil Code 3482.5, which provides that agricultural activities will not be deemed a nuisance provided certain criteria are met.

Both plaintiffs alleged interference with their use and enjoy­ment of their property and emotional distress. Ms. Clark also claimed property damage. Mr.Clark alleged that the dust, flies and odor caused or exacerbated some or all of his numerous medical conditions, which he alleged to include heart disease,coronary artery disease and pulmonary disease. After seeing Dr. Kaye Kilburn inOctober 2004, he added a claim for brain dam­age. Kilbrun, who is board-certified in internal medicine, has developed a series of neurological and psychological rests that he administers to people who believe they have suffered dam­age as a result of exposure to various chemicals. He believes that exposure to low levels of chemicals causes brain damage in significant numbers of people and, based on his testing, tes­tified that Clark was "one of the most brain-damaged individ­uals I have ever seen." Kilburn testified that Clark's brain dam­age was a result of exposure to chemicals from the chicken ranch and believed that he had been exposed to undetermined amounts of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide, which can be pro­duced from chicken manure.

Ms. Clark sought $1,514,2000 in damages, including the alleged $14,200 in property damage and $1.5 million in gener­al damages. Mr. Clark sought $2 million in general damage for past injuries and $ l million for future injuries.

The defense refuted Mr. Clark's claim of brain damage. Its medical experts tested Clark and found no evidence of chemical exposure or brain damage.

RESULT The jury returned a verdict for the defendants, finding that there was no trespass and that the stockpiles of excrement did not constitute a nuisance in that they did not interfere with the Clarks' use or enjoyment of their home.

Read more